When the heat goes up, some employees can be tempted to quote ‘health and safety’ and say it’s too hot to be working. Is there a maximum temperature?
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regs 1992 state:
‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside
buildings shall be reasonable.’
The application of the regulations depends on the nature of the workplace, because what is reasonable in a bakery may not be reasonable in an office.
Regulations, whilst not stipulating a maximum temperature, go on to explain that:
‘the temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort
without the need for special clothing’.
In many workplaces, discomfort from extreme heat may only occur during unscheduled repair and maintenance work, or when heating ventilation and air conditioning systems break down during the hottest months. When this happens, it’s important to consider the possible impact on employees.
Measures that employers should consider include:
- providing air-cooling by way of fans,
- ensuring windows can be opened,
- shading employees from direct sunlight with blinds,
- siting workstations away from direct sunlight or any objects that radiate heat, eg machinery,
- providing additional facilities, eg cold water dispensers (water is preferable to caffeine or carbonated drinks)
- allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks and cool down,
- relaxing formal dress code – although PPE (personal protective equipment) must be worn if provided and applicable.
Where workers are exposed to high temperatures in the ordinary course of their work, employers should ensure they have systems of work (eg task rotation) to ensure that the length of time to which individuals are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.